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Recording artist Leon Redbone (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Recording artist Leon Redbone (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)


Recording artist Leon Redbone on the 'fat tax' Add to ...

Leon Redbone performs at Chalmers United Church in Kingston on Nov. 29; at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Ottawa on Dec. 1; and at Hugh’s Room in Toronto on Dec. 2.

Denmark recently instituted a surtax on foodstuffs containing higher than a specified level of saturated fat. Does this seem sensible to you?

In perspective, I suppose it probably does. There are ways around it. Butter for instance. You could buy butter and make everything with butter. Theoretically, that would be allowed.

Can you see this sort of tax flying in America?

It wouldn’t work here. In an ideal environment, I suppose it might help.

If instituted, would such a tax affect you?

Not that I’d notice. I have a pretty sensible diet and I can get around anything. I don’t believe in the whole concept of the government dictating this, that and the other to the people.

But there is supposedly an epidemic of obesity and we are all bearing the costs. Isn’t innovative governmental action required?

You’d have to improve the mentality of the population or it will cost you even more and not yield results. Some years ago, you wouldn’t consider that this and that regulation would be happening, but it is.

Suppose two decades pass and fat taxes have been adopted and slapped on everything. Would that make for a slim, trim America – or just a fat, poorer America?

It might curtail it to some small degree. But I don’t seeing it working.

This is a consumption tax and the government appears to be looking out for the health and welfare of its citizens, but high taxation on booze and smokes doesn’t seem to have curbed appetites and the government rakes in enormous revenues. Is this move just another cynical tax grab?

I think it’s just more taxes. They tax everything anyway. I suppose they could go in that direction. Try it and see. Nothing would surprise me. If the thing succeeds, a few years down the line, the only people who could afford to be fat would be rich people.

A new-look America populated by poor slim people and rich fat cats?

This is how it used to be in the old days.

But now it’s the poor who sit in front of the TV eating junk while the rich have gym memberships and personal trainers.

In that case, one could argue that they are on to something. The poor are spending all of their money on junk. They will have to buy less fat and get trimmed up and take over the government.

Is that going to happen in America?

Probably not. As long as they get their fat food and the government stays out of it.

People are out of control. The amount of food that people are eating is frightening. And it’s not good food, either. They do what they are accustomed to and they are not going to stop doing it. The whip, the cost of things going up, might have an effect on some people. A better idea would be: Everybody get smart and eat less.

But the government can’t legislate smart, it can only legislate taxes.

The government can’t do much of anything but collect taxes and then throw the money away. It is a runaway society. They have already restricted so many things that nobody thought twice about in this country. If you have a society that can’t think how much to eat in the course of one day, it doesn’t sound good for the future.

Isn’t that the point when the government should step in with things like fat taxes?

In the case of the U.S., the people are detached from the government, quite frankly.

Let’s put it this way: If you can convince so many millions of people to invest money in the latest technology, the latest computer, the latest television, the latest Internet phone, [then]everyone and everybody, whether they are in the lowest economic bracket or not, they are wandering around the streets taking to each other on their cellphones. If they can do that, I suppose you can introduce anything and be successful.

Instead of taxing stuff that’s unhealthy, shouldn’t governments ban these things outright? Say, “They’re bad for you. You can’t have them any more.”

I think that could make for a revolution if you tried to take the fat away from the people of this country. That might be the only thing they would respond to, I think. People have become quite docile.

I’ve got another approach! For 10 years, make all the hamburgers and fat burgers and all the blood-clotting food, whatever, free. Make it free. Free for all the people who are not thinking and are complete gluttons. They will eat a lot of it and die. Then you won’t have a problem.

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